Get your red, white, and blue outfit ready because the Fourth of July is just around the corner.
If you and your family were unable to celebrate last year, you may be especially looking forward to this fireworks-studded holiday weekend. But a patriotic outfit shouldn’t be the only thing you’re preparing before the Fourth.
Fireworks, picnics, fun in the sun — the Fourth of July just wouldn’t be the same without these quintessential summer staples. But just as important as the backyard barbecue and fireworks show is making sure these activities are done safely.
When it comes to celebrating your holiday weekend, here are four different kinds of safety precautions to remember, so you and your family can have a happy and healthy Independence Day.
One of the first things that may come to mind when you hear the words “Fourth of July” is fireworks. Every year, these shimmering displays are the heart of summer fun. But, a fireworks-related accident can very quickly turn a show into an injury.
The safest way to view fireworks on the Fourth of July is to attend a local show. However, in Pennsylvania, residents are allowed to purchase Class C fireworks or “consumer grade” fireworks. These fireworks contain no more than 50 milligrams of explosive material, such as bottle rockets, firecrackers, and Roman candles.
“Remember, just because a firework is legal does not make it 100% safe. Accidents happen, so it’s crucial to have the proper safety precautions in place,” explains Randy Scott, Plant Operations Manager at Chester County Hospital. Scott serves as the hospital’s Fire Marshal and is the Deputy Fire Chief for Westwood Fire Company.
If you do decide to purchase and light your own fireworks display, keep these safety tips in mind:
- Never allow children to light, handle, or play with fireworks.
- Have a hose on hand to put out any flames or embers.
- Never light a firework inside your home or out of a moving vehicle.
- Wear protective eyewear when lighting fireworks.
- Never try to re-light a firework that has ignited partially or improperly.
- Before disposing of fireworks, completely douse the remains in water.
- Always discard all items in a fire resistive container, as they are still hot after use.
For More Information about Pennsylvania Fireworks Regulations, Visit the Pennsylvania State Police’s Fireworks FAQ >>.
Whether you’re planning a barbecue, picnic, or block party, weather permitting, the Fourth of July is often a great day to spend in the sun. But, with a celebration in full swing, it can be easy to forget about general sun safety.
Sun safety is important for avoiding heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke, heat cramps, or heat exhaustion. And no one wants to wake up on July 5th with a sunburn, of course.
“Not only are sunburns painful but they can be dangerous as well. Even one blistering sunburn can increase your risk of skin cancer,” explains Sarah Todd, MD, Dermatologist at Pennsylvania Dermatology Partners. Todd is also a member of the hospital’s medical staff.
When spending the Fourth of July outside:
- Wear broad-spectrum sunscreen (look for the active ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide) rated SPF 30 or greater. Make sure you apply 15 minutes before sun exposure and aim to reapply every two hours.
- Drink plenty of water. In hotter temperatures or direct sunlight, try to drink one cup of water (8 ounces) every 15 to 20 minutes.
- Monitor children under the age of 5 and adults over the age of 65. They are the most at risk for sun-related illnesses such as heat stroke.
If you do get sunburned, drink plenty of water, and if you’re in pain, it’s okay to take over-the-counter pain reliever as directed. Also, be gentle with your skin, apply cool compresses, keep your skin well moisturized, and leave any blisters that form alone.
Grill and Food Safety
Some things smell like summer. The smell of fresh-cut grass or a hotdog cooking on the grill might transport you back to your own childhood summers. In fact, the Fourth of July is the number one grilling holiday in America, with nearly 70% of Americans firing up the grill each year.
If you are one of those in the 70%, grill safety isn’t only tasty, but necessary.
If you’re using a propane grill:
- Before Grilling: Check the hose for leaks, cracks, or holes.
- While Grilling: Keep children and pets away from the grilling area — at least 3 feet.
- After Grilling: Clean grease and fat buildup off of your grill and any trays below your grill.
If you’re using a charcoal grill:
- Before Grilling: Only use charcoal starter fluid to light your grill.
- While Grilling: Keep children and pets away from the grill, and keep charcoal out of their reach.
- After Grilling: Allow coals to completely cool. Only dispose of coals in a metal container.
In addition to grill safety, it’s important to remember general food safety as well. No one wants to get sick from something they ate at a barbecue, so be sure to play your part in food safety.
Whether you’re bringing the potato salad or just eating what’s on the picnic table:
- Wash your hands prior to preparing, serving, and eating food.
- Avoid cross-contamination. Never use the same utensils or plate to serve food if it has touched raw meat.
- Cook all food to the recommended internal temperature.
- Keep hot food hot, and cold food cold. Minimize the amount of time food is sitting out in the sun.
If you are fully vaccinated, you may begin to engage in activities without a mask and without social distancing. An outdoor barbecue with other friends and family who are also vaccinated poses a low risk of transmission of COVID-19.
If you are unvaccinated, continue to follow COVID-19 best practices, like wearing a mask, social distancing, and limiting contact with non-vaccinated individuals outside of your household.
“Even if you are fully vaccinated – it’s normal to feel anxious about relaxing your precautions. You should return to 'normal' at your own pace,” says Shafinaz Akhter, MD, Infectious Disease Physician at Chester County Hospital.
Here are some additional ways you can bring COVID-19 safety into your holiday:
- Make sure you are at least two weeks from your second dose of vaccine (for Moderna or Pfizer) or single dose vaccine (for Johnson & Johnson) before relaxing your precautions. It takes that long for the immune system to make an effective response.
- Check with your doctor about relaxing your precautions after vaccination. Individuals with certain medical conditions – such as those who are status-post transplantation or taking certain immunosuppressive medications – may need to be more careful.
- Consider limiting your close circle (indoors and unmasked for prolonged periods) to those who are also fully vaccinated. A fully vaccinated family can relax together!
Remember – most transmission of COVID-19 occurs with close, unmasked encounters indoors, and very few cases have been spread simply by touching surfaces.
Have A Happy — and Healthy — Fourth of July
No matter how you are celebrating this year, these tips can help you enjoy your holiday weekend. Fire up the grill or light a sparkler, but be sure to do so safely.
From Chester County Hospital, we wish you a safe and happy Fourth of July.
Looking for more information about summer safety or general wellness? Call 610-738-2800 to make an appointment with a healthcare provider or Visit Our Physician Directory.